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Game Info:

Atelier Lydie & Suelle: ~The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings~
Developed By: Gust/Koei Tecmo Games
Published By: Koei Tecmo Games
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Available On: Windows, PS4, Switch, PS Vita (Japan only)
Genre: Role-Playing Game
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: T for Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol
MSRP: $59.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Koei Tecmo for sending us this game to review!

Atelier Lydie & Suelle: ~The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings~ is the latest and nineteenth entry into this twenty-year-old series. It is also the concluding member of the Mysterious trilogy, which started with Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book, and continued with Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey, which we also reviewed. (Those reviews were done by a different reviewer, so I can't directly compare the games.) While you can enjoy this game on its own, as I did, I would strongly recommend playing the other two first if you want to fully experience the story as intended.

From what I have seen of this series so far, it’s an interesting combination of a (mostly) girls’ slice-of-life anime, a role-playing game (RPG), and a crafting game. In this entry, you take the role of the twins, Lydie and Suelle (who usually goes by Sue) whose mother passed away three years ago. At fourteen, they are now old enough to learn the family craft, alchemy. Their father Roger is an alchemist, though he’s a bit scatterbrained, and spends most of his time painting instead. Money is hard to come by for this family, so the twins take it upon themselves to learn alchemy so that they can both feed themselves, and also keep a promise to their mom.

Their late mother, Honnete, plays a major role in the story, despite being mostly absent from it. Their mom got very sick, and before she passed, instilled several rules and promises into her children. These rules help drive the character of Lydie and Sue, and encourage them to take risks when tough decisions are presented, and also drives their primary motivation: to fulfill a promise to become the best atelier in the kingdom.

Ateliers, in this game universe, are shops where alchemists sell their creations. Alchemy is a powerful craft where people can combine various items together to make new ones. It is mostly based on logic and rules, but also a bit of mysticism, as the best alchemists can actually hear the voices in materials to make them into whatever they wish. Of course the powers that are generated through alchemy often resemble science, magic, or some combination thereof. For example, you can make standard bombs which are fire-based, but also lightning, ice, and wind-based bombs are well within reach. As you go farther into the game, you learn that alchemy can be used to do almost anything – including bending (or breaking!) the very rules of time and space itself.

Atelier Lydie & Suelle: ~The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings~
Highlights:

Strong Points: Lovely, charming cast of characters; fantastic music that gets stuck in your head; nice art; deep and interesting crafting system; satisfying conclusion to the Mysterious trilogy
Weak Points: Can get a bit tedious; very long if you go for the true ending; a massive amount of DLC that costs more than the game itself if you buy it all
Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence against natural(ish) and mystical creatures, including punis (gelatin blobs), squirrel-like beasts, humanoid creatures, and dragons; most of the majority female cast dresses conservatively, but there are quite notable exceptions with lots of midriff and cleavage shown; some notable (but rare) mildly suggestive dialogue, including references to perverts; mild language, like 'd*mn' and 'h*ll'; magic is used, and crafting new things in a cauldron with components is a massive part of this game; God is referenced, as is a church run by nuns, though no explicit deity is mentioned; some kids (protagonists included) don't like to pray very much

It is this very rule-breaking that forms a major part of the narrative in Atelier Lydie & Suelle. Inside specially crafted paintings, called Mysterious Paintings, there exists an entire new world that the heroines and her friends can travel inside. From inside of a simple picture gallery, you can travel to scary graveyards, dangerous lava pits, breathtaking frozen landscapes, and many more. Honestly, the way they did the painting worlds is really well done, and it’s always a new exciting adventure whenever another one is discovered. It also really helps that the quality of the alchemical materials is also really great inside of those painting worlds.

The main game scenario takes place in a slice-of-life format. You start the day in your atelier, and you can choose to control Lydie or Sue from the desk; the game experience is exactly the same depending on who you choose, but the most notable difference is the music, which changes based on who you are controlling. Gameplay-wise, there is no difference. I like the look (and personality) of Lydie’s character better, so I chose to control her most of the time, but I have to admit that I like some of Sue’s songs better. It also helps that the music itself is really great – my kids (and I, let’s be honest) were caught humming or whistling it on a regular basis during my weeks while playing it. It’s a really long game; since I went for all of the endings (not the bad one), it took me over one hundred and ten hours to get almost everything done to get them.

Each chapter ends up taking a format that looks more or less like this: in order to become the best in the kingdom, you have to raise your atelier rank with the royal government. In order to do this, you have to raise your reputation, which is actually quite involved, as you have various tasks, both large and small, to complete. Some are simple, like talking to various people; others require defeating difficult bosses, or crafting complicated items. Also, since crafting requires materials, you often also need to go out on excursions with the primary purpose of collecting various things. Some chapters, the ambitions journal (which houses reputation requirements) was relatively quick to complete, but often it took several hours.

After completing that chapter’s reputation requirements, you are then asked to pass a test, proving that you are worthy of the honor of a rank advancement. Sometimes, this is as simple as going back to your atelier and crafting the item in question. Other times, they want as many as it takes to meet certain thresholds. (If you want to see the true ending, always max these bars out whenever they present themselves. The game only allows one mistake if you still want that ending.) Sometimes the requirements are a bit trickier, but on the whole, they are relatively quick. After this, you are given the opportunity to explore a new Mysterious Painting. This is always fun, though if you love to collect the many materials laying about, you may find yourself having to leave and come back several times, unless you buy one of the DLC which allows you to send your inventory back to the atelier without leaving. Once you complete the new dungeon, another chapter starts, and the cycle continues.

One very common (and valid) complaint about this game is the DLC. For one, the $1.99 Adventurers’ Tales DLC is practically required for keeping sanity. Just budget for it now along with the cost of the game; don’t bother otherwise. The reason it’s a practical requirement is that it includes three tiny little items that really save a ton of time. The first is the Spiked Boots. By default, you walk SLOW. And you run, well, still slow. The ‘run’ speed in this game is slower than walk in many games I’ve played, much less running around. So walking around town, outside in the various places to explore, or inside of paintings is quite painful out of the box. So, you need to craft these boots. On top of that, they have a Secret Bag that allows you to send collected items back to the atelier. That is also such a huge time saver. The third item, Special Elixir Nutrients, is nice to have, but not nearly as necessary for a sane existence. Honestly, they probably should have been included in the base game. Thankfully, there is a nice quick travel system, but it doesn’t help once you are already inside of a painting or other region outside of the city.

Atelier Lydie & Suelle: ~The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings~
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 78%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 7/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The rest of the DLC includes everything from playable characters (good ones at that!) to additional crossover levels from other games, to various ‘cheater’ DLC that gives you easy money or experience quests to make that game that much easier. If you master crafting properly, and fight whatever you run into, it is unlikely that you will actually need these. But the rest of the content, especially those characters and levels, are not attainable any other way. I was quite saddened by this; the prices for these things are so high that I simply refuse to pick any of them up without a steep, steep discount. The game is good enough on its own, sure; I just hate to see nickel-and-diming for one’s most loyal customers in this way.

I almost forgot to mention another way to get more busywork, if the main quest isn’t enough: your friends, as well as the Notice Board. The Notice Board is a place where residents place their requests, and they range from ‘defeat this monster’ to ‘give me X’ and so on. Sometimes the rewards are money; other times it’s materials. Always watch out for any time that it’s books – always grab and complete those as soon as possible. The rewards are almost always worth it. Really, any time you see a quest with rank ‘S’ - the highest – it’s worth grabbing and doing if you can. And talking with your friends in town can give you plenty of sub quests to keep you busy.

If it’s not obvious by now, combat really isn’t a main focus of this game; though it is unavoidable and necessary, it takes a back seat to crafting and generally the characters themselves, as their day-to-day lives, and those of the people around them, are far more fleshed out. Nevertheless, it has a pretty good and deep combat system, that incorporates all party members, both active and standby, as well as crafting for both weapons, consumable items, and character skills to make a pretty engaging combat experience. In particular, I really like how it deals with standby members, as you can swap them out at any time, only costing a turn, and they can help quite a bit in combat, when triggering certain conditions. When done right, it can not only offer another layer of strategy when forming your team, but also turn the tide in difficult battles. All battles are turn-based, with each character and the enemies alternating based on how fast they are, what actions they have performed, and so on. She who loses all of her hit points first dies first – like so many other games in the genre.

The many, many conversations that you can have around town help really build up a feeling of care for the people in town around you. Unlike say, Falcom games, not every NPC is someone you can talk to. And they don’t change what they say except between changes in the time of day, or between chapters. But what does happen, is lots and lots of cutscenes for your party and all of their close friends that develop during the game. And we’re not talking about a small number of people here – easily over a dozen. It’s also really great that they are all fully voiced as well – though all in Japanese only. (Previous games in the series were voiced in English, but I’ve seen some say only about 20% of the lines in Japanese are in English in those games.) Nevertheless, you come to love most if not all of the characters throughout.

Morally, this game is mostly clean – except when it’s not. By and large, our protagonists are almost always happy and positive; if you can’t stand a ‘happy and go lucky’ attitude permeating a media, then you should probably skip this one. Never-ending optimism is a stalwart presence in this game. Despite that, it’s not without issues. For one, there is simple RPG-like violence against creatures of all shapes and sizes, including some darker, more mystical creatures, like goddesses and dragons. Most females are modestly dressed, but there are a few glaring exceptions where someone may show lots and lots of skin, cleavage, or midriff and behind. They are rare exceptions, but still very much present. There is also the occasional minor curse word, like ‘d*mn’ and ‘h*ll’. They are also uncommon. There are a very small number of lines with minor sexual references in them; one example is a person being called a creep or pervert.

Like many games of this kind, there is magic in the form of alchemy itself, effects that alchemy can perform, various attack or healing skills, and so on. Gods and goddesses are also present in various forms, as well as a Catholic-like church. This church is shown in only a positive light, as it’s a pillar of the community and a force for good. With a few notable exceptions, there is very little that is actually evil in this game at all. The vast majority of fights are simply because bad guys were just sitting there and the random battle sequence began or ended, presumably because they fight on instinct. Bosses are different, of course.

Atelier Lydie & Suelle: ~The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings~ is the first game I have played in the Atelier series. While it’s certainly a niche series, and not without flaws (tedium being high on the list at times), I can certainly see why it has remained popular for the last twenty years. Adorable characters with loads and loads of charm, an interesting and deep crafting system, competent and engaging combat, and great music no doubt keep people coming back for more. However, any prospective player must have a high tolerance for bubbly girls, character tropes, and eternal optimism. If are looking for a brooding, emotional roller-coaster in your RPG, this is most certainly not that. If you are looking to save the world from certain doom, this isn’t really about that either, though a small amount of that does happen. This is about watching a group of girls and young women grow to meet the challenges set before them, rising to meet that challenge, and hopefully falling in love with them and their positivity on life in the process. That, Atelier Lydie and Suelle has a twin-sized helping of.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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